Superman never made any money for saving the world from Solomon Grundy

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Blog fog

So, I had had high hopes for blogging this year, here and on Thark, and even on TNG. I have a science fiction anthology I was going to blog my way through, some Hawaiian comics I need to review, an obscure 70s TV movie to reminisce about, a restaurant mascot to deconstruct, and a bunch of miscellaneous images to share. But of course, all that was planned before the administration of Dolt 45 became a reality and we were suddenly faced with a daily cocktail of intolerance, incompetence, and greed.

It's hard to blog about comics when you feel like we are barely slowing down the slide to authoritarianism.

I mean, we've had politicians aplenty who have skirted the law, cut corners, shaded the truth, and otherwise misbehaved, but never before have we seen an executive who not only breaks rules, but seems to ignore their existence completely, along with any other facts that are inconvenient to his will. Even prior miscreants accepted that rule of law was the way this country worked; I am not sure the current Executive Branch has that same acceptance.  Everyone in the White House from the top down seems to be either ignorant or contemptuous of the system of checks and balance: when the court disagrees, it is a "so-called judge" who made the ruling; the press is the "opposition party".

Eighteen executive orders in three weeks, was it? The entire administration so far has been nothing but a series of misguided, mean-spirited, and likely unconstitutional commands and instructions to be cruel instead of kind, divisive instead of inclusive, dictatorial instead of collaborative.

The Democratic party, with few exceptions, has rolled over and is trying to pretend this is business as usual. After eight years of Republican obstructionism, Democrats still seem to think that somehow they can find middle ground with the GOP. Despite a catastrophically unsuccessful election, the DNC seems intent to stay the course and keep the status quo, ignoring all the young and independent and disaffected voters who could be their new, active, vocal base. All it would take is a rejection of neoliberalism and a return to New Deal values.

But without an opposition party that puts up any opposition, it has been left to us, the people, to provide the resistance. Marches every week, every day, in cities across America; phone calls and postcards and emails keeping the pressure on politicians to do the right things; donations to the ACLU and groups supporting journalism, as it seems that the free press is under attack along with our human rights and lawyers may be our only line of defense. It's activisim, and it's the right thing to do, and it's exhausting.

Andrew Sullivan, writing in New York magazine, captured this feeling:
One of the great achievements of free society in a stable democracy is that many people, for much of the time, need not think about politics at all. The president of a free country may dominate the news cycle many days — but he is not omnipresent — and because we live under the rule of law, we can afford to turn the news off at times. A free society means being free of those who rule over you — to do the things you care about, your passions, your pastimes, your loves — to exult in that blessed space where politics doesn’t intervene. In that sense, it seems to me, we already live in a country with markedly less freedom than we did a month ago.
This is what I am talking about.  It's hard to write about comics when you feel like we are barely slowing down the slide to authoritarianism.

But we must stay active and keep pressing. Some of us work harder than others: the water protectors camping at Standing Rock, the pro-bono lawyers operating on airport floors, the refugees trying to stay in the shadows or risk being be sent back to hell. It's the least we can do to continue to march, and call, and write, and donate, every week, every day, in cities all across America.

But, dammit, we shouldn't have to.

But, dammit, we will.

You might just have to wait a little longer for that funny story about the new Dungeons & Dragons campaign.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Under protest

So, when I was teaching English, I would often use Martin Luther King's Letter from Birmingham Jail as an example of  masterful rhetoric. It still holds its power, both in content and craft, today. Go read it. It's an important piece of American history.

One thing students can forget as we immerse ourselves in Dr. King's powerful prose, even though it is in the title given to the text today,  is that the letter was written from jail. Here's how Wikipedia summarizes it (emphasis added):
The Birmingham campaign began on April 3, 1963, with coordinated marches and sit-ins against racism and racial segregation in Birmingham, Alabama. The nonviolent campaign was coordinated by the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights and King's Southern Christian Leadership Conference. On April 10, Circuit Judge W. A. Jenkins issued a blanket injunction against "parading, demonstrating, boycotting, trespassing and picketing." Leaders of the campaign announced they would disobey the ruling. On April 12, King was roughly arrested with SCLC activist Ralph Abernathy, ACMHR and SCLC official Fred Shuttlesworth and other marchers, while thousands of African Americans dressed for Good Friday looked on
King and many others were arrested for demonstrating. Of course, this wasn't the only time; Dr. King was arrested dozens of times during his activities.

Now, there have been a lot of demonstrations over the past few years, with Black Lives Matter and the the take-a-knee anthem movement started by Colin Kaepernick among the more prominent, and it's pretty clear that there are going to be plenty more in the future, with 370 women's marches planned in response to the upcoming inauguration.

But we keep hearing voices speaking out against demonstrators, saying that they have no right to voice their opinion, or that they shouldn't inconvenience anyone when they demonstrate. Protestors are apparently going to be banned from the National Mall for the inauguration, and there is even a local politician in my area who wants to criminalize disruptive protests as "economic terrorism", whatever that is.

I'm not a political scientist, but protest and demonstration seems to be part of the warp and woof of the fabric of America. We all learned about the Boston Tea Party in grade school - what was that but a disruptive demonstration? Women's Suffrage and the Labor Movement, and in my lifetime, the Anti-War Movement, Gay Rights, Women's Liberation, and, of course, the Civil Rights Movement were all made manifest in public protest and demonstration - sometimes hugely disruptive. It's how we shake things up; it's how we bring about change.

Think about that as we move forward into a polarized political system and a regressive, repressive administration. We all may be called upon to do our duty as Americans, and protest.

And we may be arrested for it.

Happy Martin Luther King Day.